Sunday, September 8, 2013

You're Next: A Scary Good End to Summer

     I'm a bit of a sucker for home invasion horror movies. There's something about the sanctity and safety of one's home being molested by an outside force that ups the tension and horribleness of normal horror films. It also provides a great set-up, as the people living in the home usually can gain advantage by having memorized the secret topography of the different rooms, stairways and hidden weapons. It's one of the reasons why I enjoyed The Purge (out earlier this year), a film that threw some interesting ideas into the sub-genre but ultimately failed to live up to its own expectations. But You're Next, a new low-budget film that made lots of noise at last year's Tornoto International Film Festival, doesn't step into the same traps: blending family tension with intense intruder horror, You're Next is a great way to end the summer movie season--in a brutal, funny and stylistic way.
     Twenty minutes into the film, it feels a little bit been-there-done-that. A couple has sex. The woman (topless, of course), goes into the kitchen and grabs a drink. The man is lathering up in the shower. Soon she notices something outside the window. You know what happens next. But flash to some new characters, and it becomes more intriguing: Paul and Aubrey are a middle-aged couple that are traveling to their massive mansion out in the Missouri woods to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. The first evening, their son Crispian arrives, who recently began dating an Australian former student of his named Mary who is meeting the parents for the first time. And by the next day, the rest of the fam has returned (two more sons and a daughter), and it's soon very clear to see that tension, bickering and condescension is this family's language. Lots of brotherly dick-measuring (not literally, that would be strange) occurs, and when the entire family (and their significant others) sit down at the gigantic dinner table, the nervousness reaches a fever pitch. Then a crossbow arrow shatters through the dining room window.
     From that moment on, You're Next is a fast-paced blending of style, plot twists, ultra-violence, and a horror-movie character that is incredibly fun to root for. These intruders--nobody knows how many at the start--wear freaky masks of farm animals that add an odd surrealistic nature to the proceedings. But that doesn't stop you from being horrified when they start taking out the bickering brood one-by-one. It actually helps. The nice thing about You're Next is that in injects plenty of humor between the Thwacks of an axe: it's not straight-up horror parody or overly meta, like the Scream films or Cabin in the Woods, but it's self aware enough to know where not to misstep into too familiar territory.
     You're Next is not without problems. But what horror movie isn't? Much of the acting, except for a select few of the less-disposable characters, leaves something to be desired. But the filmmakers definitely made a sound decision to cast essential nobodies in most of the roles. The ending was also one plot twist too many. But this is a minor complaint, because the 85 minutes of film that proceeded it was so good at slicing through expectations that it doesn't particularly matter. You're Next isn't for audiences that shy away from gore--many of the killings are twisted and sick. But they provide satisfaction for viewers in various ways, instead of just existing to sicken people (I'm looking at you, Saw). The film's a jolt of electricity for a getting-tired genre, and because of its short run time, You're Next packs so much excitement into its 95 minutes to become one of the more entertaining films of 2013.     (A-)

No comments:

Post a Comment